Smiles & Wags

“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.” – Albert Schweitzer

Is there such a thing as “no pay” when volunteering with animals? Certainly, there is no paycheck, but what about payoff? The wag of a dog’s tail, the brush of kitty whiskers against the top of your foot … is there any greater payoff than the unconditional love of a pet?

I know our SPCA volunteers are not in it for recognition, so it must be the pet payoff that keeps them coming back for more slobber and fur-covered clothing day after day, week after week, year after year. Still, we, the staff at the SPCA, feel they should be recognized for all they do to bring joy to the SPCA, whether it is here at the shelter, in one of our thrift shops, or at any number of locations during outreach event.

These people spread smiles and wags wherever they are and we simply cannot say “thank you” enough, but on Sunday afternoon, we gave it our best.

During the third annual Volunteer Appreciation picnic, we sang the praises of human friends who are as dedicated as any assistance animal, who have the energy of a pack of Jacks and are as loyal as any Labrador. These people brighten our lives by helping us save the lives of pets across the CSRA and we love them for it.

Special recognition went to outstanding volunteers nominated by their peers. See the categories and nominees below. Winners are in bold print.

• Paw Partners: Judi Hammond and Lilibit, John Kolmar and Miss Caroline, Cyndi Steinmetz and Ava

• Humane Education: Bobbi Bagwell, Pat Bailey, Monika Epps, Twylia Stewart,

• jrSPCA: Abbi Conder, Molly Gilbreath, Anna Regeleski, Blair Sims

• Operations and Retail: Barbara Gregory, Loretta Nichols, Karen Poore

• Development: Windsor Armour, Kim Coleman (pictured at top), Chris and Staci Jones

• Animal Care: Bonnie Hoel, Susan Cohen

• Adoptions: Steve Benkhe, Joan Irvine, Mary Lee Koester, Marci Obringer

• Phideaux University: Kathleen Bowman, Susan Cohen, David Hoel

• Dogs’ Best Friend: Kathleen Bowman, Jody Clark, Matthew Gordon

• Cats’ Best Friend: Kit Frick, Beth Warnat, Megan Weeks

• Barbara Nelson Award for Outstanding Volunteerism: Kathleen Bowman, Susan Cohen, Kim Coleman

In addition, the SPCA, in collaboration with Steve and Doris Briggs, named our second “Serena’s Star” or, in this special case, “Stars.”

This is a special award that goes out to a different kind of volunteer. Rather than a person helping a pet, this is a pet that helps people. The award was named for the Briggs’ dog Serena, a rescue-turned-therapy-dog that serves veterans, children with special needs, hospitalized children and folks in assisted living care facilities across the CSRA.

In addition to their fine work in this field, Sweety alerts her charge to changes in blood pressure and glucose levels, while Balto literally took a bullet for his owner and chased off an intruder in a home invasion.

As if the decision between these two (which finally resulted in a tie) wasn’t difficult enough, there were many other fine nominations from which to select another four incredible finalists.

Honorably mentioned nominees for Serena’s Star include Molly, the sweet dog that inspired Elaine van der Linden to begin Molly’s Militia; Lois Fair’s devoted Australian Shepherd, Tag, whose work includes calming nervous travelers at Augusta Regional Airport; Biz Mann’s faithful Golden Retriever, Annie, who brings smiles to hospitalized children and veterans; and finally, a second-time finalist, Miss Caroline, John Kolmar’s darling Pet Therapy and Paws for Reading pooch.

The work these dogs do for people is just one of the reasons we humans are so drawn to animal welfare.

Indeed, at the SPCA, it is truly impossible to tell if it is the wag that initiates the smile or the smile that propels the wag. We, who are lucky enough to have “spending time with pets” written into our job description, are grateful for both.

If you are interested in volunteering for the SPCA, check out our volunteer page at, call 803-648-6863, or email

Chrissey Miller, CAWA

SPCA Development Director

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The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare is a

tax-exempt 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization.

EIN: 57-0329782

  199 Willow Run Road  Aiken, SC 29801      Shelter: (803) 648-6863    Vet Care: (803) 648-6864

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